How to drive like a local in Los Angeles

Old Jun 9th, 2013, 08:41 AM
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How to drive like a local in Los Angeles

We have had a successful thread on where LA locals eat, so that visitors are not stuck with deep-fried beach food, Hard Rock Cafe or lousy chain food. The challenge in LA, though, is not what to eat but how to get there. So I am asking my fellow Angelenos, Southern Californians and survivors of the 10/405 interchange, "What are your tips for visitors to survive our legendary traffic? This can include shortcuts, things to avoid, alternatives to driving (with helpful links if you have them) and any other bright ideas you have.
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Old Jun 9th, 2013, 08:43 AM
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I will start with what I believe to be one of LA's biggest quirks: Don't think that just because it is the weekend, that traffic will be easy. I am astounded at how many people are out and about on Saturday afternoons and evenings. The traffic into Santa Monica on a Saturday can be really bad, especially if the weather is nice, so give yourself time.
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Old Jun 9th, 2013, 09:04 AM
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Check the Sig Alert map before you leave home. Listen to KNX and be familiar with alternate freeway choices. Be patient.
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Old Jun 9th, 2013, 09:10 AM
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Use the free app, WAZE. It will alert you to traffic issues ahead, and re-route you. It has saved us many times, an LA and elsewhere.
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Old Jun 9th, 2013, 02:51 PM
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On weekends, start early for your destination, Saturday mornings can be great. If heading to the beach, plan to arrive around 9:00am or earlier. I usually plan to leave the beach before 11a when it gets crowded and you can just see the line of cars on their way in. Late works too, after dinner. Arriving early or at opening times is generally good advice (many places are lovely for the first hours and the crowds arrive a little later).

During the week, avoid rush hour 7:00 - 10:00 in the morning and 3:00 - 7:00 in the afternoon. You might still get stuck but the heaviest traffic is mostly dispersed and you are just dealing with an odd slow down.

Completely agree with the above advice about checking traffic. I actually think LA traffic can be better than other cities because there are often several alternate routes to choose from.
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Old Jun 9th, 2013, 05:09 PM
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Avoid Lincoln Blvd. between Santa Monica and Venice, especially during rush hour and at the weekend.
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Old Jun 9th, 2013, 06:34 PM
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I'd say, avoid Lincoln Blvd. Period.

You can't use the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes of the 110 (Harbor Fwy.) unless you have a transponder. (I wonder if the car rental companies are offering them?) If you have a transponder, there is no toll for cars with 2 or more people, but you can use the lane even if just one person for the toll amount you'll see on the lighted signs.

Alternatives to the 405 between the LAX area and the Westside (described from south to north):

Sepulveda Blvd. (continues north to the San Fernando Valley)
Military/Veteran (Military between Palms and Pico, then jog 1.5 blocks east and turn left on Veteran which goes to Sunset)
Westwood Blvd. (between National and Wilshire, but best between National and Pico)
Overland (between Playa and Santa Monica Blvd., although the area at the southern end of Overland is confusing)
Sawtelle Blvd. (between Culver and Pico)
McLaughlin/Barrington (between Washington Blvd. and Sunset, although best between Washington and Pico)
Centinela/Bundy/Kenter (between Jefferson and Sunset, but it bogs down in a few spots, and you end up rather west of the 405)

(Can you tell I've been driving this route for 35 years?)

Just because your GPS tells you to get on a freeway, check traffic reports, look at a map and consider parallel streets. For example, in the San Fernando Valley, use Ventura Blvd., Moorpark St. and Riverside Dr. rather than the 101 (Ventura Fwy.). Note that the Ventura Fwy. is 101 west of the Hollywood Fwy. (also numbered 101) but 134 east of the Hollywood Fwy.

Note also that locals (esp. ancient ones like me) say "the" 405, "the" 110, or use the old-school names (405 = the San Diego Freeway, 110 = the Harbor Freeway, 5 = the Golden State Freeway, etc.)
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Old Jun 9th, 2013, 06:48 PM
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I'm a native Angeleno, but on frequent recent visits I found that the best thing (besides listening to KNX) is to check the traffic status on your GPS. LA (unlike Seattle where I now live) has a lot of alternative freeways...i.e. if the 110 looks bad, think about the 710 etc.; check out traffic conditions on the 60, the 10 and the 210 before heading east. I was heading through the Valley to Downey via the 101 last time and discovered a huge snarl at Barham Boulevard, so switched to the Golden State instead. Manageable if you're flexible.
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Old Jun 9th, 2013, 07:14 PM
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I am NY'er whose had been to LA many times. If there isn't traffic, I always stunned as to how many people tailgate and tap on their brakes at high speeds.

Also I used to drive Los Angelenos crazy when I jay walked in downtown LA.
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Old Jun 10th, 2013, 11:19 AM
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I second Jean's alternate routes. Haven't been on all of them, but those that I have, she's spot on.

Also suggest the toll roads/lanes, which are a very strange idea for Los Angelenos. The only toll east-west lane that I know of is the 91. All the others that I've been on have been north-south tolls in Orange County:

http://www.go511.com/traffic/toll_roads.aspx

I live in the Bay Area but have driven quite a bit in LA and absolutely avoid the Santa Monica (10) Freeway if at all possible. Also don't like the DT junctions of the 10, 110, 5, etc. and try to avoid if at all possible, but mostly not possible.
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Old Jun 11th, 2013, 05:39 PM
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Since there are so few left turn arrows on the traffic signals, try to plan a route that requires as few left turns as possible. Conversely, if you are waiting at a red light and it turns green, do not accelerate right away, because there will always be 2-4 cars who are turning left on the opposing red light (since traffic makes it impossible to turn left while it's green).

Jean, Thanks for those alternates. I took DS apartment hunting in Westwood today, and it was torture with all of that construction around the 405 on the west side.
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Old Jun 11th, 2013, 08:29 PM
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Yes - all bets off with the westside metro construction. Avoid eatsbound drives on Wilshire, Santa Monica, Olympic, and Pico weekday afternoons. I have found the freeways better lately -- maybe because of the construction cars can't even get to the 10!
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Old Jun 11th, 2013, 10:01 PM
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Between Santa Monica and Westwood, Century City or Beverly Hills (described from west to east), try a combination of Colorado, Idaho and Ohio. Colorado starts at the SM Pier and changes names to Idaho. At Westgate, jog north a couple of blocks to Ohio and continue going east.

At the east end, Ohio terminates at Thayer which is just short of reaching Beverly Glen. If you want to go to Westwood, turn north earlier at Veteran or Westwood Blvd. If you want to go to Century City (Santa Monica Blvd.), either work your way east to Beverly Glen (via Rochester) and turn south or turn south earlier at Manning. If you want to go to Beverly Hills, turn north on Thayer (or Beverly Glen) and then east on Wilshire. This is usually faster to BH than Santa Monica Blvd.
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Old Jun 11th, 2013, 10:24 PM
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>How to drive like a local in Los Angeles <

1. Don't signal for turns/lane changes.
2. Pass on the right.
3. STOP actually means slow down enough to make sure nobody is coming then proceed.
4. The yellow light means go faster and there is a 5 second grace period on red.
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 03:22 PM
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Ummm, Sparkchaser, very funny. I agree, but I'm not sure that's advice we want to give to visitors. We don't need anyone else picking up our wonderful driving habits
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 04:58 PM
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One thing you never want to learn is how to drive like a local in Los Angeles.
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 06:18 PM
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#2. Not illegal unless you mean the passer is using the shoulder or emergency lane.

#4. Yeah, right. Tell that to the cop, the judge and the red light cameras.
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 06:21 PM
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Aren't those cameras being phased out since they're illegal and there is no way to enforce the fines? I think something like a billion in unpaid fines, while the camera companies keep collecting fees from the city.
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 06:49 PM
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Some cities have terminated their contract with the red light camera company, LA included. But not all.

Avoid the Westside and Santa Monica entirely unless you have business there or don't plan on touring.

If you mainly plan to visit Hollywood and Beverly Hills, stay east of the 405, or if you want a beach community, try Manhattan Beach.

Remember to describe freeways as "THE" followed by the number, the 405, the 101, etc.

Thursday getaway day traffic is actually the worst, starts at lunchtime. And try not to drive in to LA on a Sunday.
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 08:23 PM
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My sis was spotted by a red light camera last summer, on Sunset in Beverly Hills. But when she tried to pay the ticket, she was told that it was no longer necessary...I wonder why the city decided not to collect on it. She felt too lucky to try to find out!!!
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